Tip 13: The Actual Interview

When you interview potential customer service reps, there are a couple things you’re trying to determine and skills you want to assess. What is this person’s ability to effectively communicate our products and services?  What is their potential as a CSR? The successful rep will need to possess a combination of both technical and customer ...

When you interview potential customer service reps, there are a couple things you’re trying to determine and skills you want to assess. What is this person’s ability to effectively communicate our products and services?  What is their potential as a CSR?

The successful rep will need to possess a combination of both technical and customer service skills. To determine a candidate’s technical expertise you may have a written test, a series of questions you ask them, or you may even bring in technical experts to quiz the candidate. Most CSR positions however, are not so technical they require previous, specialized training. For more general customer service positions you only need to understand the candidate’s ability to learn and communicate effectively. Here are some suggestions to help you determine if you’re looking at the right person for your position.

1. Start by asking candidates about their experience with social networking or other internet sites. Really all you want to understand is whether they’re staying up on current technical and social trends. Having a social media account certainly is not a qualifier or disqualifier for the position, but it does infer the candidate is familiar with online etiquette and resources.  This is especially important for CSRs who provide email or chat support. And all call center positions require some computer and online skills, so having a social network account usually means the candidate at least knows how to navigate a computer and the internet.

2. See if they can educate you on something you’re unfamiliar with. Ask the candidate to describe technical aspects from a previous position. You’re looking to see if they’re able to start with very general and easy-to-understand language, and move on to more technical concepts easily.

3. Throw in a couple of trickier questions. For example, ask candidates to describe a poor customer service experience they have recently experienced. Then ask them how they would have handled the same situation if they had been the customer service representative in that position and were required to stick to the policy. Somewhat surprisingly this often is a difficult question for candidates, and tends to reveal their attitude in difficult situations. Do not be concerned with the answer as much as to how quickly and easily the applicant is able to navigate the question.

4. Punctuality and attendance are extremely important in a service environment. Of course, all but the most clueless candidates will claim to be extremely reliable and punctual.  So instead of asking the question directly, start by talking about your company culture and how you like to be sure to treat all employees fairly. Then ask what experiences they have had with companies with unfair policies. I have been amazed over the years with the number of interviewees who described “unfair” punctuality and attendance policies.  Policies very similar to the same ones they would be under if they became a CSR in my organization.

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